Values, Politics, and Misinformation: Examining Communication within the Filipino Diaspora

Diaspora communities in the United States are avid users of messaging apps and have historically been targets of misinformation campaigns during American elections. As a growing electorate, diaspora groups are looked at by political parties as a means to cement support or sway political attitudes. One way to reach these tightly connected groups is through the weaponization of political information. While disinformation is spread with the intent to deceive the receiver, diaspora communities are also exposed to misinformation – the spread of false information without the intent to deceive.

Misinformation can easily spread through messaging apps, where open and private groups forward news articles and social media reels among family and friends. As diaspora communities continue to energetically engage in these apps, the risk of increasingly widespread misinformation within these communities is notable.

Examining the U.S. Filipino Diaspora

The Filipino diaspora population in the U.S. has grown substantially over the last 40 years. In 2021, Filipinos had the fourth highest immigration population in the United States. Given that they are a growing and thriving community, it’s important to understand their experiences. In this report, the Center for Media Engagement focuses on the Filipino community in California and Texas where some of the largest diaspora communities reside.1 Through in-depth interviews, this study aims to unpack the values that impact the Filipino diaspora’s political viewpoints and understand how political preferences are technologically communicated using these values.2

The immigration stories of the interviewees reflect diverse experiences. One interviewee, Jose, was born and raised in the Philippines until the age of six and later immigrated to the U.S. with his parents. Will is a first-generation American born to two Filipino parents who immigrated to the U.S. in their early adulthood. Daniel’s3 maternal grandfather immigrated to the U.S. in the 1960s in the wake of the Marco regime while his father and paternal grandfather were raised in Manila. It is important to keep in mind the cultural and familial contexts of each interviewee’s story and how these unique experiences impact their political awareness and attitudes.

Political Beliefs Influenced by Values

Family Values

A political ideological divide between generations was a common theme in our interviews. Filipino American families often tiptoe around political discussions to “keep the peace,” according to interviewee Will. This tiptoeing, in his case, is a result of the opposing partisan alignment that he and his parents hold:

“My parents and I know never, ever to talk about religion or politics because we will end up fighting. My Mom told me straight up that she thinks CNN ‘is the devil.’ She knows that I’m a CNN person…We’re just very careful about touching those subjects when we’re together because when we see each other, we want to make sure that it’s peaceful and enjoyable.”

This effort to avoid political discussions altogether is often tied to strong family values instilled in Filipino culture. Adam3 pointed to the “importance of smooth interpersonal relationships that is a value in Filipino American culture…We’re not going to try to get into arguments for no good reason. We’re going to see each other at Thanksgiving.”

Jose, however, was surprised by the political divides within families. Jose aligns with his parents’ Democratic affiliation and assumed this was a universally shared experience, “I had no idea a good population of other Asian Americans were Republican-leaning. I had no idea.”

Filipino Politics

Interviewees discussed political rifts in families that centered around Filipino politics, specifically concerning the former president of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte (2016-2022) and current President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. (2022-present). Both political figures have controversial reputations. Former President Duterte spurred international headlines for his ‘War on Drugs’ that resulted in a spike in extrajudicial killings and thousands dead. Current President Marcos is the son of Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos who was ousted by a popular uprising after two decades in power. The controversy around Duterte’s policies was an area of disagreement for Jose and his father:

“My extended family, we’re pretty much all the same [party affiliation]. I think when it comes to Filipino politics, it’s a little different. When it came to Duterte, my Dad agreed a lot with his stuff. There was people who didn’t agree with Duterte and then people who did agree. I didn’t agree with Duterte’s behavior, but my Dad did.”

Interestingly, Duterte’s controversial policies in the Philippines and the emergence of far-right politicians in American politics sparked a change in political beliefs for Daniel’s parents. He and his mother traditionally disagreed over politics, with Daniel leaning Liberal and his mother Conservative. However, Daniel explained:

“My mom was very conservative, but it wasn’t until MAGA, Trump, and even just the Duterte (and) Marcos regime that she really started turning over a new leaf and becoming liberal…and she actually sees the impacts and results of them and realizing that especially growing up very low income, we are the recipients of a lot of liberal policies versus conservative policies.”

Colonialism, Religion, and Church

Perspectives on religion and colonization also influenced the interviewees’ political stances. As Daniel noted, “I did grow up conservative just because of the huge religious and…colonial mindset that plagues the Filipino community.”

Caroline3 felt that many members of the Filipino diaspora possess a strong American and “colonial mindset” that can be traced to U.S. imperialism in the Philippines, where the U.S. imparted Western customs and the English language. Caroline attributed this adopted mindset as the reason behind her relatives’ support for former president Donald Trump.

Interviewees mentioned religion as a factor that shapes familial political beliefs and news consumption. Many Filipino Americans have strong Catholic ties, which stems from centuries of Spanish colonization in the Philippines. Adam noted the generational gap between religious and political affiliations:

“If they go to a very conservative Christian church or something like that, then they’re going to probably skew Right a lot more on their political views. Then I would say that the generation younger than me, they’re probably a lot more progressive than any of the other generations.”

It wasn’t just the religious doctrines that affected political preferences, but also the social aspects of attending church. Daniel emphasized the intersection of Catholicism and community:

“A lot of my friends and family…relied on the Church to provide them community in predominantly White spaces, so they would just follow whatever the priest would say or whatever the Church would sponsor because that is where they found their community in.”

The intersection of political and religious friction peaked around the issue of abortion, according to interviewees. As Will noted:

“Filipinos are very faithful. A lot of them are faithful Catholics. Some of them are faithful Muslims. And so whatever they believe in has a huge deal. So, anything that has to do with divorce or abortion, I mean that…is a huge deal for a Filipino.”

The “Ideal” Immigrant

Interviewees shared that perspectives on immigration vary within the Filipino diaspora depending on party affiliation. When it comes to issues of the U.S.-Mexico border, Daniel finds conservative Filipinos to be less supportive of immigration opportunities.

Adam attributed some Filipino Americans’ support for tighter immigration policies to the model minority myth, where Asian Americans are seen as high-achieving, ideal citizens who do not need economic assistance. This mindset has contributed to political polarization within Adam’s Filipino American community, “Now that you have it [the American Dream], you don’t want anybody else to have that. It’s a really strange shift in thinking.”

On the flip side, Jose and his family, who all identify as Democrats, support progressive immigration policies because they do feel that personal connection with immigrants at the border:

“I try to empathize and my parents also empathize with people who do come into the country… so when it comes to like that stuff [border patrol], yeah, we try to like put ourselves in that position because we’ve been in that position.”

Sharing News and Misinformation

Facebook and Facebook Messenger

Across the board, interviewees discussed their ‘big family group chats’ primarily situated in Meta’s Facebook Messenger. As staying connected with family is an essential Filipino value, “Facebook Messenger dominates everything now,” as Daniel put it.

One reason for the popularity of Facebook Messenger is the ability to share all types of media and to host group calls. Family members of all ages feel that the messaging app is accessible and user-friendly. Furthermore, interviewees described the transition to Facebook Messenger for large groups as seamless, since they and their relatives all had pre-existing Facebook accounts, and preferable to the potentially rocky transition to WhatsApp, where only a few family members had pre-existing accounts.

Critically, Facebook Messenger is an important place for interviewees to connect with family members in the U.S. and the Philippines. As Adam highlighted:

“[Social media] is used a lot. It’s hard for me to say how important it is… I would say that my family and our circle are on it a lot. It’s primarily how we keep up with each other or how we share family party invites, pass words about family members… We have various Facebook pages or groups that are dedicated to family stuff [and] other things.”

Facebook and Misinformation

Interviewees also noted the circulation of misinformation on the app and on Facebook. They frequently were tagged in news articles on Facebook or received forwarded news pieces on Facebook Messenger. For Jose, seeing posts from relatives that spread misinformation became overwhelming, “I had Facebook, but I deleted it… When it comes to the Asian community, people will believe whatever and will share whatever.” Instead of choosing to confront family members on Facebook for spreading misinformation, Jose chose to opt out of the conversation.

Grace3 said she takes news shared in Facebook Messenger groups with a “grain of salt” and as “not gospel.” She has a great uncle who she cited as frequently sharing misinformation from tabloid sources. Caroline felt similarly about her relatives, who make up most of her Facebook connections, “(They) share news from just really illegitimate sources, so I can usually tell what’s clickbait and what’s real and what’s not.” However, Caroline noted that her Filipino American family members tend to share more misinformation than her Filipino relatives on Facebook.

Many interviewees cited examples of misinformation they were confronted with during the U.S. presidential election of 2020. Caroline was disappointed when her Filipino American relatives shared articles with flashy headlines and videos taken out of context:

“A really disparaging image, like an image of Joe Biden falling asleep. An image of Kamala Harris, it looks like she’s shouting at somebody. It usually has something like that with some kind of ridiculous headline.”

The spread of visual-based misinformation on Facebook is especially popular through the forwarding of memes, which are easily shared intra-platform. Adam saw memes with “dark humor” and a “nasty edge” first on Instagram Reels or YouTube that then traveled to Facebook Messenger and were eventually shared on his Facebook timeline.

For Will, Facebook is his “safe space.” He actively chooses to not post or repost any political or religious content he sees from family and friends. For him, choosing to opt out is better than engaging with issues that are particularly sensitive within the Filipino community, such as partisanship, religion, or abortion. By contrast, JJ engages with and shares sensitive social media content that advocates for racial equality in the hopes that he “dismantles” both the “model minority” and “Asian community is one and the same” myths.

Both Jose and JJ were the recipients of American and Filipino election misinformation on social media. Primarily through the spread of memes, JJ saw American political posts directly connecting support for social topics – like LGBTQ+ rights and racism – to a particular partisan belief. For the 2022 Philippine election, Grace remembers seeing short, clickbait headlines surrounding Marcos Jr.’s 2022 campaign attributing success and prosperity in the Philippines to both Marcos Sr. and Jr.

2024 U.S. Presidential Election and Misinformation

Misinformation surrounding the upcoming 2024 U.S. presidential election is circulating but not at the top of interviewee’s social media feeds. Adam has started to see rhetoric around the 2024 U.S. Presidential Elections, including, “Biden’s approval rating, Biden’s age and seeming lack of competence or at least that’s how some outlets portray it.” Similarly, JJ has seen edited compilations of Joe Biden falling asleep and Grace has seen altered images and memes of ‘Sleepy Joe.’ Daniel came across misinformation attacking both parties, including ‘Dark Brandon’ memes attacking Biden and videos splicing together Republicans’ statements.

Even though Will, JJ, Grace, and Daniel have expressed progressive views and even at times Democratic party alignment, misinformation and propaganda regarding the incumbent Democratic candidate have circulated among all their social media feeds.

The anticipation of the election has been felt by many. Jose finds election seasons overwhelming and difficult to understand. He sees “a good amount of people [who] don’t vote.” Similarly, Daniel sees civic disengagement happening with members of the Filipino diaspora. One reason he shares is due to the “fear of speaking out” because of the generational trauma of intimidation and fear felt during the original Marcos regime. He also points to the information overload that exists in our modern-day media environments. Considering the omnipresence of partisan bias and misinformation on social media, Daniel says, “People don’t know what to believe.”


Understanding how diaspora groups communicate with each other helps us understand the political, cultural, and historical contexts that shape these communication values. Additionally, understanding what is not being communicated may shed further light on these complex, underlying norms.

Keeping the peace and bringing families together is an important cultural value for both the Filipino and Filipino diaspora communities. In many cases, this cultural value is prioritized over an individualized expression of political opinion that risks upsetting or causing disagreement with a loved one. Interviewees recognized both the faults and benefits of this cycle. Parents and children may not speak openly about their political worries or causes, but as Adam noted, “We’re going to see each other at Thanksgiving.”

These strong familial ties cross over into the digital realm, especially within family group chats on Facebook Messenger and interactions on Facebook. While misinformation is present within the Filipino diaspora’s big group chats, the cultural circumstances that dissuade heated discussions over controversial issues point to an alternative phenomenon: multiple, isolated political discourses. Political viewpoints continue to grow and evolve within the Filipino diaspora community, however, diverging political ideologies and prioritized efforts to ‘keep the peace’ separate these ongoing evolvements.


We thank Mirya Dila for assistance with the interviews.

This piece is a project of the Center for Media Engagement (CME) at The University of Texas at Austin and is supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Omidyar Network, Open Society Foundations, and The Miami Foundation. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the funding bodies.

  1. Analysis relied on qualitative, in-depth interviews with 8 Filipino and Filipino American individuals ranging from 19 to 54 years old who all identify as being part of the Filipino diaspora community. All interviews were held over Zoom and conducted from September to December 2023. Interviewees were selected and approached through purposive, and subsequently, snowball sampling. Purposive sampling included emailing recruitment materials to Filipino cultural institutes in America as well as in-person presentations on college campuses addressing Filipino and Filipino American students. California and Texas residents were recruited based on the notable diaspora population size of the Filipino community in these states. Through snowball sampling, additional interviewees were approached via the recommendation of past interviewees.[]
  2. Interviewees were asked a variety of questions concerning their media consumption and misinformation reception. For example, whether and why they turned to social media platforms to read political information or when and where they were on the receiving end of political misinformation, including on messaging apps such as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp. Furthermore, interview questions addressed how Filipino culture and family relations impacted their political viewpoints and information consumption. For example, how Facebook Messenger group chats with family in the United States and the Philippines were conducive environments for the spread of political misinformation.[]
  3. Pseudonym for anonymous interviewee.[][][][]